With corpses still being pulled from a once-besieged hotel, India’s top security official offered his resignation yesterday as the government struggled under growing accusations of security failures following terror attacks that killed 174 people.
Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil submitted his resignation letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday.
Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram was appointed to take over Patil’s job and Singh will take over the finance portfolio for now, the government said.
Indian TV reported that National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had also resigned.
“Our Politicians Fiddle as Innocents Die,” read a headline yesterday in the Times of India newspaper, part of a growing chorus of criticism.
The prime minister called a rare meeting of leaders from the country’s main political parties to discuss the situation yesterday.
New Delhi also said it was raising security to a “war level.”
“We will increase security and strengthen it at a war level like we have never done it before,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said.
Authorities were still removing victims bodies from the Taj Mahal hotel yesterday, where three suspected Muslim militants made a last stand before Indian commandos killed them in a blaze of gunfire and explosions on Saturday.
The landmark waterfront hotel, popular among foreign tourists and Indian high society, was surrounded by metal barricades, its shattered windows boarded over. At the iconic Gateway of India basalt arch nearby, a shrine of candles, flowers and messages commemorated victims.
“We have been to two funerals already,” Mumbai resident Karin Dutta said as she placed a small bouquet of white flowers for several friends killed in the hotel. “We’re going to another one now.”
The rampage was carried out by gunmen at 10 sites across Mumbai starting on Wednesday night. At least 239 were wounded.
One site, the Cafe Leopold, a famous tourist restaurant and the scene of one of the first attacks, opened yesterday for the first time since the mayhem, but police asked it to close just minutes later because they said the eatery needed permission first.
“I want them [the attackers] to feel we have won, they have lost,” restaurant manager Farzad Jehani said of the symbolic opening. “We’re back in action.”
Elsewhere in the trendy Colaba district where the fighting took place, shops were open and traffic flowed despite police barricades and heavy clean-up work around the Taj Mahal hotel.
The death toll was revised down yesterday from 195 after authorities said some bodies were counted twice, but they said it could rise again as areas of the Taj Mahal were still being searched.
Among the dead were 22 foreigners, from 11 countries. Nine gunmen were killed.